Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bangladesh opposition threatens election boycott, hints of overthrow

SALEEM SAMAD

BANGLADESH'S MAIN opposition party has threatened to boycott the election if the government refuses to hold polls under non-partisan neutral government.

“We will not take part in the elections under a partisan government, as people will never accept the scrapping of the caretaker government system,” the head of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), former prime minister Khaleda Zia, said Wednesday.

She urged her supporters to overthrow the government through a popular uprising such as those that have occurred in some Middle East countries since the beginning of the year, a definite shift of strategy of her anti-government campaign launched two weeks ago.

Criticizing the government that has been in power for two and half years, Zia said should her party win the election, she would scrap the recently overhauled constitution that dropped the impartial non-party caretaker administration to ensure holding of a credible general election.

The opposition fears that the election would be rigged and manipulated, which would further marginalize their share in the 300-member parliament. The next election is scheduled in 2013.

“Election without caretaker government cannot be held in the country and any election without participation of BNP will not be acceptable,” she warned.

The ruling Awami League has amended the constitution, which not only prohibited the interim government from holding a general election, but also included a Koranic verse in the constitution. In a radical shift from secularism, the government has adopted an Islamic constitution.

Ruling party vehemently opposed the argument and said the election commission, literally a paper tiger would hold the election independently after it is significantly strengthened, the government promised.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He specializes in Jihad, forced migration, good governance and elective democracy. He has recently returned from exile after living in Canada for six years. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com